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Washington Spotlight July 2009

SWE to Testify on SWE AWE Project on Capitol Hill

The House Committee on Science and the Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education will be holding a hearing titled, “Encouraging the Participation of Women in STEM Fields,” on July 21 at 10:00 a.m. The purpose of the hearing is “to examine current research findings, best practices, and the role of the federal agencies in increasing the interest of girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in primary and secondary school, and addressing the challenges that deter young women from pursuing post-secondary STEM degrees.”

SWE has been invited to testify at the hearing and will provide the Subcommittee an overview of SWE’s Assessing Women and Men in Engineering (AWE) project, including the metrics and methodologies it uses to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of programs designed to increase girls’ participation in STEM.  Barbara Bogue, researcher associated with the AWE project, will serve as SWE’s witness, as well as speak about her experiences as head of the Women in Engineering program at Pennsylvania State University.

More information about the hearing will be posted on the Committee’s website in the near future. The hearing will also be webcast on Tuesday, for those interested in watching the hearing live.  It will also be archived for those unable to view it live.


White House Holds Roundtable to Commemorate Title IX’s 37th Anniversary, SWE In Attendance

On June 23, 2009, the White House held a roundtable commemorating the 37th anniversary of Title IX, featuring White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlyn Ali.  Speakers included an all-star line-up of women athletes and scientists, including Billie Jean King and Dr. Shirley Malcom of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Several representatives from the women’s community, including SWE Executive Director and CEO Betty Shanahan, and 30 local high school aged girls were also in the audience. 

Watch the White House YouTube video of the roundtable. SWE Executive Director and CEO Shanahan asked a question to the panel in the 48th minute.


Four SWE Student Members Dedicate Summer to Public Policy

Four active SWE student members are serving as interns in the Washington Internships for Students in Engineering (WISE) program this summer. In existence since 1980 and sponsored by seven engineering societies, the WISE program brings 12 to 15 3rd and 4th year engineering students to Washington, D.C. each summer for nine weeks to learn how government officials make decisions on complex technological issues and how engineers can contribute to legislative and regulatory public policy decisions.  These SWE student members are Caitlin Augustin, senior at the University of Miami; Cheyenne Alabanzas, senior at the University of Alaska at Anchorage; Jennifer Christensen, recent graduate of Texas A&M University; and Sarah Widder, recent graduate of the University of Washington.

Throughout the nine weeks, the students interact with leaders in Congress and the Administration, industry, and prominent non-governmental organizations. Meetings with Congressional Committees, executive office departments, and corporate government affairs offices are daily activities.  In addition, during their time in Washington, each student researches and presents a paper on a topical engineering-related public policy issue.  

SWE Executive Director and CEO Betty Shanahan and SWE Director of Outreach Randy Freeman recently met with the interns to discuss their paper topics, as well as their involvement with SWE.  Photos from this meeting can be found on the SWE Public Policy community.

Learn more about the WISE program, including how to apply


Members of Congress Call on NAS, NAE and IM to Assess the Competitive Position of U.S. Research Universities

Recently Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), along with Reps. Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Ralph Hall (R-TX), wrote to the Presidents of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IM) requesting that they convene “a distinguished group of individuals to assess the competitive position of American research universities, both public and private.” Specifically, the letter’s signatories request that the individuals so convened respond to the following question:

What are the top ten actions that Congress, state governments, research universities, and others could take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral
education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century?

The letter reads, in part that “America’s research universities are admired throughout the world, and they have contributed immeasurably to our social and economic well-being. . . Science and engineering in the last 60 years have fundamentally improved the lives of every person on this globe. The contributions of our research universities cannot be overstated. . . We are concerned that they are at risk.”

In addition, Mikulski, Alexander, Gordon, and Hall request that the resulting report from the Academies include:

  • An assessment of the relationship, or lack thereof, of U.S. research universities with other parts of the national research enterprise
  • An accounting of the collaborations between universities and privately funded corporate research laboratories, as well as an assessment of the contributions those relationships might make to the Nation’s future
  • A discussion of the difficulties faced by medical schools and medical centers affiliated with research universities, as well as the relationships of both with the National Institutes of Health

Review the full letter.

Washington Spotlight June 2009

Senate Confirms Three Doe Nominees, Including SWE Member Kristina Johnson

In late May, the Senate unanimously approved three top-level Energy Department nominees: Kristina Johnson, undersecretary of energy; Steven Koonin, undersecretary of science, and general counsel Scott Harris.

Johnson, an electrical engineer and SWE member, is Johns Hopkins University's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and previously was dean of Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.

Koonin, an award-winning physicist and BP chief scientist, helped Energy Secretary Steven Chu form a major biosciences energy research partnership when Chu headed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Before joining BP, Koonin spent almost three decades at the California Institute of Technology as a professor of theoretical physics, including nine years as provost.

Harris is a managing partner with Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that specializes in telecommunications, trade and other areas. From 1994 to 1996, he was chief of the International Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission, and before that, he was chief counsel for export administration at the Commerce Department.

Also of interest, on April 29, the Senate confirmed Russlynn Ali to be the new Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights at the Department of Education. Ali was previously the Vice President of Education Trust and founding director of Education Trust-West. Ali has held senior positions at several other education-related organizations, including the Children's Defense Fund, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education; and the Advancement Project.


House Subcommittee Approves NASA and NSF Funding for FY10

On June 4, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies approved by voice vote the appropriations bill to fund the agencies within its jurisdiction in FY10.  This jurisdiction includes many key federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The bill would provide: $6.9 million for NSF, including $5.6 billion for Research and Related Activities and $862 million of the Education and Human Resources Directorate; $18.2 billion for NASA, including $3.3 billion of the Exploration Mission Directorate and $501 million for the Aeronautics Mission Directorate; $510 million for the Scientific and Technological Research and Services (STRS) at NIST.

Review a summary of the Subcommittee’s FY10 funding recommendation by agency.

The full House Appropriations Committee must now consider the Subcommittee’s bill. To date, no immediate timetable has been set.


New National Academies Publication Focuses on Learning Science in Informal Environments

A new publication from the National Academies, “Learning Science in Information Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits,” focuses on informal science, a burgeoning field that operates across a broad range of venues and envisages learning outcomes for individuals, schools, families, and society. The publication is a helpful guide for program and exhibit designers, evaluators, staff of science-rich informal learning institutions and community-based organizations, scientists interested in educational outreach, federal science agency education staff, and K-12 science educators.

The publication provides a common framework for the next generation of research on learning science in informal environments across a life span. Contributors include recognized experts in a range of disciplines: research and evaluation; exhibit designers; program developers; and, educators. These contributors also have experience in a range of settings: museums; after-school programs; science and technology centers; media enterprises; aquariums; zoos; state parks; and, botanical gardens.

Read the 352-page publication online without charge.


ASME Statement Emphasizes Diversity and Inclusion in the Stem Workforce

ASME’s Board of Governors recently approved a general position paper titled, “Diversity and Inclusion in the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce: A National Imperative.” Developed by the ASME Center for Leadership and Diversity (CLD) in coordination with the ASME Board on Government Relations (BGR), the paper emphasizes ASME’s commitment to a truly diverse and inclusive STEM workforce, and offers guiding principles for ASME and the broader STEM community, as well as several recommendations for policymakers. 

The ASME paper notes that in 2007, women represented only 10.8% of the engineering workforce, and similarly, African Americans and Hispanics represented only 11.7%. While these numbers do represent significant gains from the 1980s, there is still much work that needs to be done. The statement defines managing diversity as “the ability to effectively inspire and enable all people to: 1) align to a common vision, 2) communicate effectively and assure understanding, 3) know and accept what is of value to others, 4) leverage the strengths of others and trust their commitment to deliver as agreed, and 5) appropriately recognize and celebrate successes often.”

The paper further states, “The U.S. economy relies on the productivity, creativity, and entrepreneurship of all U.S. citizens. With the predicted changes in future U.S. workforce demographics, increasing the participation of women and underrepresented groups in the U.S. STEM workforce must become a 21st Century national imperative. We urge policymakers to strengthen and re-examine oversight of existing legislation and programs aimed specifically at broadening participation by under-represented groups in STEM fields.”

Review the full position paper, "Diversity and Inclusion in the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce: A National Imperative."


Washington Spotlight April 2009

Both Chambers of Congress Pass Budget Resolutions

On April 2, the House and Senate each approved their versions of the FY 2010 budget resolutions, bringing to an end a week of highly partisan sparring over climate change and federal spending.

Passage of the roughly $3.5 trillion budget blueprints marks a major step toward the implementation of the Administration's legislative agenda. Like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5), debate and votes on the budget resolution have sharply divided Congress along party lines, foreshadowing perhaps a long, drawn out, debate during the FY 2010 appropriations process.

Although both House and Senate leaders claim their budget closely resembles the broad outline put forward by the Obama administration, the two pieces of legislation do differ slightly on spending levels and a number of other issues dealing with the long-term budget deficit. On discretionary spending, the House budget calls for $533 billion in non-defense discretionary spending, or $7 billion less than the $540 billion proposed by the Administration, while the Senate scaled that amount back even further to $525 billion.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress will now seek to produce a conference report that will then be sent back to both chambers for consideration. 

President Taps SWE Member for DOE Undersecretary Position

President Obama has nominated Kristina M. Johnson, an electrical engineer and a SWE member, to become undersecretary of DOE. If confirmed, Johnson will oversee coal and nuclear energy programs as well as renewable energy and efficiency programs.

Johnson is currently the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs of Johns Hopkins University. She served as the Dean of Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering from 1999-2007 where she helped to set up interdisciplinary efforts in photonics, bioengineering and biologically inspired materials, and energy and the environment. Before that she was on the faculty of the University of Colorado, Boulder from 1985-1999 where she led an NSF Engineering Research Center and involved engineers, mathematicians, physicists, chemists and psychologists in working to make computers faster and better connected.

The first female recipient of the John Fritz Medal, often referred to as the highest award in the engineering profession, Johnson holds more than 129 U.S. and foreign patents or patents pending. These inventions include pioneering work on liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) micro-displays and their integration into demonstration and commercial systems such as heads-up automotive displays (HUD); pattern recognition systems for cancer prescreening, object tracking and document processing; HDTV and 3D projection displays; and 3D holographic memories. She is also the 2004 SWE Achievement Award recipient. Johnson received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University.

Learn more


House and Senate Pass National Service Legislation, Mentions Role of Engineers

On March 26, the Senate overwhelmingly passed S. 277, the Service America Act, to reauthorize the AmeriCorps national service program through FY 2014 and expand the ranks of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000. This legislation is the first reauthorization of the AmeriCorps program since the program’s inception in 1993, and is in response to President Obama's call for a “renewed spirit of national service.” The legislation would add four service corps in areas of clean energy, education, health care and veteran service to aid low-income communities. The House then passed the bill on March 31, sending it to President Obama for his signature.   

Speaking in support of the bill on the Senate floor, Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE), the only engineer in the U.S. Senate, said the following in support of the Service America Act, “This bill, I am proud to say, recognizes the important role that engineers can play in bettering our communities. This bill will send retired engineers into communities, classrooms, and after school programs, allowing them to share their wisdom and experience with students. Ultimately, they will seek to help young people understand not only the important role that science and math can play in their careers, but how they can use their expertise in those fields to solve our country’s – and the world’s – greatest challenges.

We must, once again, capture the attention of our students and let them see the numerous ways that STEM contribute to our economy and can improve the lives of their fellow citizens—in America and abroad. Just as I decided to study engineering because I was inspired by ‘Sputnik’ and the race to put a man on the moon, we must inspire our students to work on issues of critical need as well,” stated Sen. Kaufman. 

In addition to expanding the number of the volunteers, S. 277 also

  • Authorizes new programs to address America’s most pressing challenges, such as tackling the dropout crisis and strengthening our schools; improving health care for low-income communities; assisting veterans and military families; boosting energy efficiency; and cleaning up parks;
  • Increases the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award and links it to the maximum PELL grant in the future, currently $5,350, to increase incentives for service and postsecondary education;
  • Creates a “Summer of Service” program to encourage middle and high school students to engage in a summer of community service and put them on a path to a lifetime of service; and
  • Creates “Encore Fellowships” to put the skills and experience of older Americans to work. This one-year fellowship gives Americans aged over 50 the opportunity to transition into part-time or full-time service to carry out projects of national need.  Creates a Social Innovation Fund to support the work of successful and dynamic nonprofits, and help them bring their innovative ideas to scale.

Read Senator Kaufman's full speech.

Learn more about S. 277.

To review the full text of S. 277, please visit the Library of Congress and search by bill number.


Engineering Societies Urge New Administration and Congress to Establish National Energy Policy Goals

Twenty-one engineering societies, including SWE, have now endorsed the “National Energy Policy Goals Proclamation,” developed by ASME and IEEE-USA, which outlines critical national energy priorities that this collective group would like to see implemented by the new Administration and Congress within the next several years.      

Specifically, the Proclamation calls for the establishment of energy policy goals to protect U.S. economic and national security and to guide the development of energy technology. The decree supports a balanced national portfolio that incorporates traditional energy applications, such as natural gas, coal and nuclear, along with renewable energy sources, such as wind, geothermal, solar, and biomass, to support reliable, abundant and economically viable energy for the nation. The Proclamation also issues a call for the adoption of policies that encourage more energy conservation, reward energy efficiency and foster energy breakthroughs like accelerating the development of electrified motor vehicles. 

Among the goals outlined in the Proclamation include:

  • Maximize the use of electric power generated by sustainable economic and environmentally-acceptable technologies
  • Modernize the nation’s electric transmission grid
  • Maximize the electrification of the transportation sector
  • Establish visible and substantial national energy efficiency and conservation goals
  • Employ indigenous raw materials to manufacture liquid and gaseous fuels
  • Build and deploy generating capacity to supply reliable electric service
  • Provide a long-term commitment to energy research, development and demonstration

The Proclamation seeks to confront looming national energy challenges with a heavy emphasis on the acceleration of energy related infrastructure development in order to better accommodate a more environmentally conscious future, accomplishing more with less energy and supporting energy related breakthroughs to enhance national energy security. 

The Proclamation marks the first time that the broader engineering community has come together on an energy policy goals statement.

A copy of the Energy Policy Goals Proclamation is available to review in the SWE Public Policy community in MySWE Communities.


Two Top Members of Administration’s Science Team Confirmed

On March 19, two of the highest ranking science advisors, Dr. John Holdren, the Administration’s choice to head the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the Administration’s choice to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), were finally approved by the Senate.

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) issued a statement praising both nominees that read, in part: “I commend President Obama for nominating individuals who are committed to the advancement of scientific research and knowledge. It is time to take science out of the laboratory and into our communities in order to help people understand how science impacts their everyday lives—from clean air and water to fixing our rapidly declining economy.”

Although neither nominee’s confirmation was ever in doubt, both confirmations were delayed by several weeks because of a combination of competing Senate priorities, and several anonymous holds that Commerce Committee leadership said were unrelated to the merits of the nominees.

Dr. Holdren, a Harvard University physicist and professor of environmental policy, has received much praise for his work on climate and energy policy, clean technology and nuclear proliferation.  Meanwhile, Dr. Lubchenco, a marine biologist and the first woman to head NOAA, has built an international reputation for her scientific work on marine conservation and climate change and for her ongoing efforts to help scientists participate in public policy debates and communicate their work to the general public.

Lubchenco and Holdren are expected to play a significant role in shaping the Obama administration's approach to climate science and overall policy.  

Read Sen. Rockefeller’s full statement regarding the confirmation of both Dr. Holdren and Dr. Lubchenco.


Washington Spotlight May 2009

President Obama Makes Historic Commitment to Science at NAS

On April 27, President Obama gave an address at the 146th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), becoming the first sitting president since John F. Kennedy to do so, a historical footnote not lost on the President.  

“I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the Space Race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science.”  

Some of the major announcements to come out of this speech include:

  • A commitment to finish the 10-year doubling of three key science agencies: the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. Between 2009 and 2016, the Administration’s enacted and proposed budgets would add $42.6 billion to the 2008 budgets for these basic research agencies, with a special emphasis on encouraging high-risk, high-return research and supporting researchers at the beginning of their careers.
  • A joint initiative by the DOE and the National Science Foundation that will encourage American students to pursue careers in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship related to clean energy with programs and scholarships from grade school to graduate school.
  • $777 million to support 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers, which will solicit roughly 1,800 researchers and students from universities, national labs and elsewhere to address “current fundamental scientific roadblocks to clean energy and energy security.”  Of this funding, $277 million is provided from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5). 

During Monday’s speech, the President also announced the members selected for the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST will be co-chaired by John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Eric Lander, Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project; and Harold Varmus, President and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, former head of the National Institutes of Health and a Nobel laureate.

In announcing the new PCAST members, the President said, “This council represents leaders from many scientific disciplines who will bring a diversity of experience and views. I will charge PCAST with advising me about national strategies to nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation.”

Review a complete listing of PCAST members.

Listen to the webcast or watch the video of the President’s address.

Read a summary of the major announcements made in the address.

Review the reaction of House Science and Technology Chair Bart Gordon (D-TN) to the President’s address.


Obama Administration Releases Detailed Budget Request

On May 7, the first detailed budget for the 2010 fiscal year (FY10) and for the Obama Administration itself was unveiled in Washington, D.C.  Totaling $3.4 trillion, the budget includes cuts for 121 programs totaling just over $17 billion.     

Some of the budget cuts proposed by the Obama Administration are:

  • Environmental infrastructure construction projects under the Corps of Engineers, $180 million
  • Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository program, $91 million
  • Water-infrastructure earmarks under EPA, $145 million
  • High Energy Cost Grants program under USDA, $18 million
  • Local government climate grants under EPA, $10 million
  • The Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative under DOE, $8 million

Among the highlights of the FY10 budget request of interest to the engineering community are:

  • $7.0 billion for the National Science Foundation, which is an 8.5 percent increase over the FY09 enacted level. This includes approximately $5.7 billion for research and related activities, with $765 million directed to the Engineering Directorate (ENG).
  • $4.92 billion for the DOE Office of Science, a $184 million, or 3.9 percent, increase over the FY09 Appropriation.
  • $4.47 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a $26 million decrease over the FY09 appropriation.
  • $534 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), including $70 million for the Innovation Technology Program (ITP). This is also $62.6 million above the FY09 Appropriation.  

With the Administration’s budget request now circulating on Capitol Hill, lawmakers within the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will now begin the process of holding hearings on the budgets of the different agencies and giving Administration officials the opportunity to justify the President’s request. Inevitably there will be disagreements over the correct level of funding for each program, particularly of some of the budget cuts that the Administration has proposed.     

Review the detailed budget request.


SWE Co-sponsors Congressional Visits Day 2009

On April 28-29, SWE co-sponsored the fourteenth annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (SETCVD) 2009. The two-day annual event brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. Uniquely multi-sector and multi-disciplinary, the CVD is coordinated by coalitions of companies, professional societies and educational institutions, and its objective is to underscore the long-term importance of science, engineering, and technology to the Nation through meetings with congressional decision-makers. 

As the only diversity organization that co-sponsored CVD 2009, SWE focused its message to policymakers and their staff on the importance of a U.S. commitment to attaining a diverse and inclusive STEM workforce. “Leveraging the U.S.’s diverse population is our country’s unique advantage in a global competition. A truly diverse workforce will fuel increased innovation when it takes advantage of the variety of approaches and perspectives offered by diversity.” Nine SWE leaders, including five current members of the SWE Board of Directors, participated in this event, visiting the offices of their U.S. Representatives and Senators. Twenty-two Congressional visits were conducted in all, and this is SWE’s second year to participate in CVD.

For more information about SWE’s participation in CVD 2009, including some of the training materials and event photos, please visit the SWE Public Policy community.

Learn more about CVD 2009.


House Approves Three STEM Bills

The House Science and Technology Committee recently approved three bills designed to expand the scope of existing science research and boost U.S. global competitiveness.

“The Federal government can play an important role in STEM education at all levels because of the richness of the science and technology resources at our research agencies,” said Committee Chair Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). All (the bills) strengthen an interagency coordination process to achieve a set of goals that no one agency can achieve on its own.”

These bills were:

  • HR 1709 - the STEM Education Coordination Act of 2009 - requires the OSTP to create a committee to coordinate federal programs and activities related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
  • HR 1736 - the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of  2009 - creates a panel within the National Science and Technology Council to coordinate international science and technology cooperation across federal agencies.
  • HR 2020 - the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2009 (NITRD) - improves NITRD by strengthening the program's interagency strategic planning process and mandating periodic reviews of networking and information technology research.

Learn more about these three pieces of legislation.

Washington Spotlight March 2009

SWE Holds Congressional Briefing Related to Dearth of Women in Academic Science and Engineering

On February 24, SWE held a Congressional briefing in conjunction with the House Diversity and Innovation Caucus entitled, "The Dearth of Women in Academic Science and Engineering: Proactive Strategies for Improvement." More than 100 representatives from Congressional offices, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, industry, and academia attended the event, and SWE President Virginia Connolly, P.E. served as the event’s moderator. 

The briefing discussed proactive strategies that universities and the STEM community are currently using to improve the retention of women and underrepresented groups in STEM, and what tools, like Title IX, the federal government can use to assist them.  Primary briefing speakers included Dr. Darryll Pines, Dean of A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland; and Dr. Klod Kokini, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering at Purdue University. House Diversity and Innovation Caucus members, Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), also provided remarks. 

In addition, the following 15 STEM and women’s organizations co-sponsored the briefing: American Association of University Women; American Institute of Chemical Engineers; American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering; American Society of Civil Engineers; American Society for Engineering Education; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers; Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology; ASME Center for Public Awareness; Association for Women in Science; IEEE-USA; National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering; National Center for Women and Information Technology; National Organization for Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals; The National GEM Consortium; SAE International; and the Women in Engineering Pro-Active Network.

For more information about the briefing, please visit the Public Policy Community under SWE Communities.


President Obama Signs Executive Order Creating National Council on Women and Girls

On March 11, President Obama signed an executive order creating the National Council on Women and Girls. The mission of the Council will be to provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls and to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families. Chaired by Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor, the Council will include as members cabinet-level federal agencies.

“The purpose of this Council is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy," said President Obama. "My Administration has already made important progress toward that goal. I am proud that the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. But I want to be clear that issues like equal pay, family leave, child care and others are not just women’s issues, they are family issues and economic issues.”

During its first year, the Council will also focus on the following areas:

  • Improving women’s economic security by ensuring that each of the agencies is working to directly improve the economic status of women
  • Working with each agency to ensure that the administration evaluates and develops policies that establish a balance between work and family
  • Working hand-in-hand with the Vice President, the Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women and other government officials to find new ways to prevent violence against women, at home and abroad
  • Finally, the critical work of the Council will be to help build healthy families and improve women’s health care

Review the full White House press release about the Council.


FY09 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Signed into Law, Increases for Science and Engineering Agencies

On March 11, President Obama signed the $410 billion FY09 Omnibus Appropriations bill into law. The bill was passed by the Senate only one day before the signing and will fund the majority of the federal government through the rest of FY09.

Earlier that week, there had been some question if the legislation could pass the Senate after two members of the Senate Majority party, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), had publicly expressed their disapproval of what they perceived to be too many earmarks. Indeed, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also criticized the bill, proclaiming that there were at least 8,000 earmarks contained in the legislation. Ultimately, the bill passed the Senate by a voice vote. 

While President Obama had some reservations about the number of earmarks in the bill, he went ahead and signed the bill, saying his Administration would issue future guidance to Congress. Review the President’s full remarks about H.R. 1105.

Contained within this legislation are some increases for science related agencies:

  • NSF would receive a $363 million increase, or 5.9 percent, to $6.49 billion
  • Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science would receive a 18.8 percent, or $755 million increase in funding to $4.77 billion
  • NIST's budget would increase 8.4 percent, or $63.2 million to $819 million in FY09 

To learn more about H.R. 1105, visit and search by bill number.


House Affirms Support of Engineering

By a vote of 422 to 0, the House of Representatives passed H.Res. 117, entitled “a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of National Engineers Week.” The resolution was introduced by House Science and Technology Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chair Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), one of a handful of engineers in the 111th Congress.

More specifically, H.Res. 117 affirms that the full House:

  • Supports the goals and ideals of National Engineers Week to increase understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers and to promote literacy in math and science
  • Will work with the engineering community to make sure that the creativity and contribution of that community can be expressed through research, development, standardization, and innovation

“Engineers play an important role in our society in helping to meet many of the technological challenges we face, and it is important that we recognize and celebrate that role,” said House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).  “Engineers have played a crucial role in our economic growth, especially their role helping to span the gap between scientific discovery and commercial products.  Having a strong national community of engineers will be a key factor in our nation’s ability to reverse the economic downturn and create the jobs and products of the future.” 

Review a complete list of members of Congress with engineering and science backgrounds.

Learn more about the House’s support for science.

To learn more about H.Res. 117, please visit and search by bill number.

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